CBC promises its first Olympic broadcast since 2008 will offer 24/7 access to the Games, allowing Canadians to watch any competition how and when they want to see it – a digital upgrade from its last Olympic offering.
The public broadcaster unveiled its plans for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Wednesday. CBC also holds broadcast rights for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We were almost inconsolable when we didn’t have the Olympic Games on CBC television, and particularly the home games in Vancouver,” CBC Sports Weekend host Scott Russell said in an interview Wednesday.
“To have them come back now for Sochi and for Rio de Janeiro in 2016, we believe this is where the Olympics should be.”
With Brian Williams long gone from the public broadcaster’s coverage, Russell, Ron MacLean, Diana Swain and Heather Hiscox will be the faces of the 2014 Olympics on CBC.
Their exact roles are still being ironed out, in part because the NHL hasn’t reached a deal with the International Ice Hockey Federation to send its players to Sochi. Russell, covering his 11th Olympic Games, will likely host a daytime show and MacLean will take over in the evening. Swain will also host Olympic coverage, while Hiscox will anchor CBC News Network live from Sochi.
“We all feel and are 100 per cent confident the NHL is going (to Sochi). Of course, if that didn’t happen, that would change the dynamic a little bit for us,” MacLean said.
He says the biggest challenge will be tailoring the programming around the time change. Sochi is eight hours ahead of Toronto time.
“If Sidney Crosby is gunning for gold at midnight or 1 a.m. in Sochi, that’s going to present a challenge for us because the prime time show will start three hours later. It’s going to be a wild ride.”
The last time CBC held Olympic broadcast rights, Twitter was in its infancy and hadn’t yet changed the way people watch and talk about sports. iPads didn’t exist.
Now, CBC is catching up with theminute-by-minute coverage the Olympic media consortium offered in the public broadcaster’s absence.
CBC says it will carry every competition live and on-demand, while also offering its second screen platform to Olympic viewers.
Available now for Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts, it integrates the experience of watching a sporting event with the social atmosphere of being on Twitter or Facebook. Viewers can take polls, make predictions, watch highlights and see stats, scores and social media feeds all in one place, on a computer, smartphone, or tablet screen.
“There will be 24/7 (coverage) on every platform,” Russell said.
“Every Canadian will have a chance to connect with the Olympics and the Olympians in every way possible.”
The media consortium that carried the 2012 London Olympics offered more than 5,550 hours of event coverage, and says Canadians watched about 3.4 million hours of video content on digital platforms alone. The consortium spread out its television coverage over nine channels, including CTV and TSN.
CBC hasn’t offered details yet about how it will distribute its coverage.